Do Your Leaders Have The Right Convictions About Innovation?

Without leadership support, corporate innovation projects are dead on arrival. Leadership support is so important that this is the first thing I ask for when I am working with innovation teams. I have worked with several teams that have tried to avoid getting leadership support for their projects. However, they soon discover that they cannot avoid leaders forever. There is always the crunch point where teams need more resources and approvals to take their ideas to scale. This is usually the moment they realise that they should have engaged their leaders much sooner.

It is also the case that more and more leaders are now keen to support innovation. This is good news, if those leaders have the right convictions about how innovation works. While we are always keen to celebrate when leaders get actively involved in innovation, I have learned that not all leadership support is created equal. Sometimes you have leaders that are keen to support innovation but they have the wrong convictions about how innovation works. This kind of support can actually be harmful to innovation projects.

We are not just looking to get broad leadership support. We are looking to get a specific kind of support that will help innovation teams thrive. To be successful in the long term, innovation needs leaders who get it. Below are ten convictions that leaders should have about innovation. Teams can use this checklist to see if they are getting the right kind of support from their leadership team.

  1. Exploiting Versus Exploring — Exploiting current success and exploring new opportunities are different arenas of business that require different styles of leadership and management. In one case, you are delivering a known value proposition and executing on a known business model. In the other case, you are searching for the right value proposition and a profitable business model.

It is not enough that leaders have good intentions. They also need to have the right convictions about innovation. The wrong type of leadership support usually comes from leaders who believe in myths about innovation. Even with the best intentions, these leaders can end up getting in their own way. As such, our leaders’ convictions about innovation matter. We are not just looking for their support with innovation, we are looking for a specific kind of support.
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This article was first published on Forbes where Tendayi Viki is a regular contributor. Learn more at www.tendayiviki.com.

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Tendayi Viki

Associate Partner at Strategyzer. Author of Pirates In The Navy. Thinkers50 Innovation Award Nominee 2017 - Radar Thinker 2018. Learn more: www.tendayiviki.com.